Mozart, Gluck, Myslivecek

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COMPOSERS: Gluck,Mozart,Myslivecek
WORKS: Opera arias
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano); Prague Philharmonia/Michel Swierczewski
CATALOGUE NO: 471 334-2
Poised between soprano and mezzo, Magdalena Kožená’s richly coloured voice combines fullness and warmth with the bloom and freshness of youth. Add to this a perfect technique – seamless legato, dazzling coloratura, smooth negotiation of wide intervals – and a vivid musical imagination and you have a recipe for an exceptional classical recital. Kožená’s programme, too, is enterprising, with the familiar (Gluck’s ‘O del mio dolce ardor’, Sesto’s arias from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and a delicious, erotically charged ‘Voi che sapete’) rubbing shoulders with the less familiar (say, the magnificent scena from Gluck’s Clemenza di Tito, recently recorded by Bartoli) and the totally unknown (three fine arias by Kožená’s fellow-Czech Josef Myslivecek). Kožená doesn’t have quite the temperament – or the hyper-sensitive response to the Italian text – of Bartoli in the number from Gluck’s Clemenza. But her more delicate, contained singing, marked by a scrupulous care for evenness of line, is hardly less moving. Elsewhere Kožená catches all the sensuous longing of the two arias from Paride ed Elena (‘O del mio dolce ardor’ done more urgently than usual) and subtly conveys the conflicting emotions in Mozart’s vacillating Sesto. Highlights for many will be the two virtuoso show-stoppers, ‘Il tenero momento’ from Mozart’s Lucia Silla and Creonte’s ‘rage’ aria from Myslivecek’s Antigona, where Kožená’s brilliant, expressive coloratura is in the Bartoli class, yet accomplished without the Italian diva’s intrusive aspirates. Though string-playing can be a touch scrappy when the going gets tough, the Prague Philharmonia (on modern instruments) provides spirited, characterful support. In sum, a delectable disc that whets the appetite for Kožená in complete recordings of Gluck and Mozart operas, above all the grievously neglected Paride ed Elena. Richard Wigmore